We didn't need The Onion to remind us that the city is a bit of a "trash-ridden hellhole," but they were slightly off: the city is built on top of a trash-ridden hellhole. And a new, fascinating interview in this month's The Believer with Robin Nagle, the anthropologist-in-residence at New York City’s Department of Sanitation (DOS), reveals even more about the state of garbage in NYC.

She tells The Believer: "Every single thing you see is future trash. Everything. So we are surrounded by ephemera, but we can’t acknowledge that, because it’s kind of scary, because I think ultimately it points to our own temporariness, to thoughts that we’re all going to die."

Among other things, she discusses mongoing ("One of the categories of garbage has its own word in New York City...People who take things from the trash to keep are mongoing. Which, by the way, is illegal."), the Museum of Sanitation in New York ("I want people to see the machinery and how it works and why it makes so much noise and what happens when you put twenty-two hundred pounds per square inch of pressure on a bag and it explodes back at you."), the stigma of working for the DOS ("People assume they have low IQs; people assume they’re fake mafiosi...I do believe very strongly it’s the most important uniformed force on the street"), and the health implications ("New York had the highest infant mortality rates in the world for a long time in the middle of the nineteenth century. Those rates dropped. Life expectancy rose. When we cleaned the streets!").

However, The Believer neglects to ask her why we can't just sweep the garbage under the rug, and cover up the smells with barrels of perfume. (Via GOOD Blog)